Four steps to support Ukraine

NATO has to activate some forces to preserve its credibility

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NATO’s governing body met Sunday to discuss Russia’s invasion of Crimea and its threat to take military action elsewhere in Ukraine. However, the alliance announced no actions to reinforce Ukraine’s security and demonstrate Western resolve in the face of Vladimir Putin’s aggression. Options should include the following:

1. Security assistance to Ukraine, including anti-tank weapons, surface-to-air missiles, ammunition and other supplies. Ukraine’s military stands among the country’s more pro-Western establishments, with nearly two decades of interaction with NATO through the alliance’s Partnership for Peace program.

2. Deployment of NATO surveillance capabilities. As passive systems they would not threaten Russia, but they would enhance Ukrainian defenses by providing greater awareness of the movement and presence of Russian forces.

3. Activation of NATO’s rapid response force, which can deploy on immediate notice a land brigade backed by air-support elements and special operations units, among others. This could serve as a show of force similar to the major military exercise Russia undertook as it launched its incursion into Crimea.

4. Deployment of NATO naval forces to reinforce the interests of allies and partners in the Black Sea.

If NATO continues to limit its role to consultations in this crisis, its relevance as a security institution will be significantly diminished. The West’s response to Mr. Putin’s provocative use of force against Ukraine needs to include tangible military preparations that will reassure our Central European allies, introduce risk into Mr. Putin’s military actions and demonstrate the credibility of the West’s warnings.

Ian Brzezinski is a senior fellow with the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO policy. © 2014 Atlantic Council.

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